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Proposed Santa Cruz Peace Park

Aileen Vance, Santa Cruz Sentinel (3/26/02)

I am saddened by the many vitriolic letters and editorials that have appeared in this paper regarding the proposal to create a peace park at the site of the Town Clock and Collateral Damage statue. As a parent and an educator, I experience first hand each day the complex and rewarding work of teaching young people to find alternatives to violence in their words and in their actions. I find it appalling that so many people apparently think that if one expresses the desire for peaceful solutions to conflict, that they are then by definition also "Un-American" or "unpatriotic." I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.

In my opinion, there is a direct connection between the hard work we do to teach our children to find alternatives to violence and the effort to bring attention to the atrocities of war by the creation of a peace park. The Collateral Damage statue, which already exists at the proposed site, stands as a memorial to the innocent victims of wars everywhere. It was cast from metal made from handguns that were turned in voluntarily in a city-sponsored event co-organized by Doug Rand and the Santa Cruz Police Department. The statue commemorates the horror wrought upon all innocent victims caught in the crossfire of wars that they themselves did not orchestrate, including the victims of the Spet. 11 attacks. It offers us place to stop and think, to mourn, and to remember, not unlike the also once-controversial Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.

I am also frustrated with the misinformation folks seem to have about the funds allocated for the proposed park: although clearly stated in last June's proposal where the money will be spent, it has not been clearly stated in the media. Do opposers of the park know that most of the allocated city funds will go to upgrade this currently dilapidated park area? Anyone who goes there will note that there is virtually no landscaping and that the concrete needs repair. As I understand it, most of the funds that the City has allocated for the park project will go for these already-needed upgrades which will only serve to beautify what is now mostly an eyesore. Other costs (extra landscaping, labor, materials for the proposed wall) will be donated or covered by private fundraising. What will result will only benefit the entire downtown area.

I counted Doug Rand as a friend. I didn't always agree with him, but I admired him very much for his seemingly unquenchable optimism. He tried to make a difference in the world and believed in the power of other ordinary people to do the same. I did not know him as shy or retiring, as one letter-writer recently expressed. He was, rather, gentle but incredibly determined, a brilliant and courageous organizer who devoted his significant energy to trying to create a world free from violence, despair and injustice. He was also a human being, and as such, like all of us, made mistakes. It is probably harder to be human in the harsh spotlight of an unsympathetic media--we all make mistakes, but not all of us have those mistakes reach newspaper and radio headlines in an effort to invalidate the rest of their work, as at least one Conservative commentator has recently done.

I support the creation of a community peace park. And I don't have any problem with naming it after Doug Rand. I know in my heart that this park will celebrate the work and dreams of all those who believe in peace and I know that the reason it will be named for Doug is because he organized the creation of the statue that now stands there. I like to think that this park will be a humble but beautiful place, a small bit of sanctuary in a very troubled and busy world, a place, at the very least , where anyone can come to reflect upon the answer to the question that my five year old son asks me each time we drive by the Town Clock: "Mommy, why are those people in that statue so afraid?"


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